You may have come across the mysterious abbreviation ASMR on the Web. This term stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response – “autonomous sensory meridional reaction“. It arose relatively recently, and the phenomenon that it describes became the basis for the development of a whole trend in video blogging.
Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) is a perceptual phenomenon characterized by pleasant short-term tingling sensations in the back of the head, spreading in the form of goosebumps along the skin of the neck and back to the extremities. This may be a form of paresthesia and has been compared to auditory-tactile synesthesia. ASMR sensations are elicited by the subjective experience of “mild euphoria” characterized by “a combination of positive sensations and a distinct static tingling sensation on the skin”. Most often it is caused by specific auditory or visual stimuli and less often by intentional control of attention. A genre of videos designed to stimulate ASMR has emerged, of which over 13 million have been posted on YouTube. (Wikipedia)
Probably, many people are familiar with the feeling of physical pleasure, most often associated with the appearance of goosebumps and a pleasant tingling all over the body. No, we are not talking about orgasm. This reaction can manifest itself even non-contact in response to a variety of stimuli – for example, sounds, words, gestures, some actions. And in a variety of situations – at a school lesson, at a doctor’s or beautician’s appointment, when reading books and watching movies.
People admit that they experienced these sensations while watching other people’s actions – say, when they watched someone draw, write, put things in order, pack things. Or when listening to the monotonous voice of an announcer on TV, a tour guide in a museum… Some people experience bodily pleasure responses when touching objects, listening to the sound of rain, the rustling of book pages, or even the rustle of packages while picking beads… We can experience ASMR while petting animals or watching how someone else strokes them … For each, the set of triggers that cause pleasant goosebumps is individual, and for some, no triggers work at all.
Fear and Pleasure
Alas, there are no serious, extensive scientific studies on ASMR yet. Although scientists generally recognize the existence of this effect.
Thus, the British specialist in the field of neurocognitive science Nick Jay Davis suggested that the mechanism of occurrence of ASMR is similar to that in monkeys, which are characterized by the so-called social grooming – a ritual of mutual courtship, when animals, for example, comb out each other’s hair.
Interestingly, the goosebumps characteristic of ASMR are associated with a very ancient human reaction. If we are afraid of something, we often feel trembling, and the body is covered with “goose bumps”. Sometimes the hair stands on end – you can feel it and even see it.
Scientists explain this effect as follows. In many animals, when meeting with a predator, the hair rises on end, which visually increases the size of the body. This allows you to look more “intimidating” to the enemy.
A person has no hair, there is only a soft “undercoat”, but the reflexes are preserved. When we experience fear, the hypothalamus gives the command to increase the production of adrenaline. As a result, our muscles contract, and the hair stands upright not only on the head, but throughout the body.
It is curious that this happens not only when we are afraid of something or someone, but also with any thrill, including those of a positive nature. For example, while watching a movie or listening to a musical composition that touched us a lot, while looking at works of art…
Who benefits, and who is annoyed
In recent years, bloggers have appeared who call themselves ASMR artists and in their videos try to deliberately cause the ASMR effect in the audience. Usually in such videos, the presenter in a quiet voice, and sometimes even in a whisper, utters certain statements, or manipulations with various objects are performed. Sometimes these are role-playing videos, in which, for example, a visit to a doctor or a trip to a beauty salon is simulated.
Surveys of viewers and listeners of such videos show that in many cases they improve the state of depression, stress and pain. Of over 460 respondents, 98% agreed that ASMR videos make them relax, 82% use them to fall asleep, and 70% use them to combat stress. About 80% reported that ASMR videos affect their mood. At the same time, there are also people for whom such content does not affect in any way, and for some it even annoys.
But where does the ASMR effect come from? There is a version that alpha brain waves, which are responsible for the state of relaxation and calmness, are “to blame” for everything. According to another hypothesis, the occurrence of ASMR sensations is associated with the production of so-called euphorins (“happy hormones”) under the influence of various triggers.
Either way, ASMR is a real physiological phenomenon. And, probably, it should still be explored, as it can open up new opportunities for therapy and various practices in the field of spiritual and bodily self-improvement.